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J50 Orca Update: Scientists going to try to get her second dose of meds

J50 follows her mother, J16, on Aug. 18, 2018. (Photo by Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries, under permit 18786)

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. — Scientists and veterinarians monitoring the health of the sickened Orca known as J50 said they spent three hours watching her and her J pod as they returned to the Salish Sea Saturday and noted some slight improvement in her condition.

Observers said J50 was actively socializing with her pod but fell behind as they swam east, eventually catching up to her mother and brother on the west side of San Juan Island.

The plan is to try and get a second dose of an antibiotic through a dart injection, and if possible, a second dart with dewormer to reduce parasitic worms. There were some indication of parasites in the group’s fecal samples and scientists worry that they could harm emaciated orcas like J50, officials said.

The darts are similar to those used to treat other wildlife and will fall out over time, officials said. But getting a dart into a whale’s thick skin from a rocking boat is a difficult task, so they have a backup plan a collared needle with a ridge that holds it in place long enough to deliver the full dose.

Veterinarians have been trying to treat J50 after she was discovered last month underweight with a possible infection.

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